OK, I'm getting ready to do my first project with hardwood. I'm starting
small with a cutting board for my brother-in-law. He went to Texas Tech
University in Lubbock, TX, so I'd like to make it from black and red
woods. I'll be using an end-grain design, so grain figure isn't very
What dense hardwoods do you suggest to get close to pure black and red and
still be suitable for food use? It'll have a clear finish.
Honduras mahogany and African ebony would work. However - once you
price the ebony - I suspect you'll switch to something else.
A lot of nogal (Peruvian walnut) is quite dark but it is fairly soft
too...softer than black walnut. You can use rusty water to get white
oak dark but I have no idea how deep the color goes or how it would
last on a cutting board...not well, I think.
I think I would use maple and stain the blocks before assembling. Not
knowing how deep the stain would penetrate you would need to try a
couple of pieces and sand as you would the cutting board after
assembly to test this out.
Ebony is the only pure black that's reasonably available in anything
but very small sizes. African Blackwood is also pure black but I've
never seen it for sale in anything larger than a pen blank. Neither
of them is cheap. Ebony is exceedingly hard and dense.
For a red, bloodwood is probably your best bet. None of the reds hold
color forever but bloodwood does better than most. Try to find a
local supplier for bloodwood if you can--the color varies and you
really should pick your piece. It's not as bright as redheart but
redheart turns very pale very quickly unless you put the right finish
on it and anybody who knows what that finish is isn't saying.
You might do better with dye than with the natural color.
Birch is about the best wood to use for foodstuff because supposedly
it is "tasteless." But it is very light in color. The darkest wood I
can think of (and still use in a cutting board) is black walnut. For
the red you can try red oak. Make sure to use a dust mask while
working with the walnut.
End grain would probably do with cherry/walnut, neither of which are
outrageous. Stuff the big pores in the walnut with dust/curing oil mixture
to darken and keep the critters and crud from hiding from your sponge.
1. A cutting board should not have any finish, clear or otherwise.
Mineral oil or any block\bowl oil you get at the culinary store or
from Boos company.
2. The only foodsafe approved wood (in commercial kitchens) is hard
3. You do not want to use any porous wood. I'm not sure about
bloodwood or any other exotic.
4. Some woods are toxic or can be an irritant to some people so I
would (wood) be careful and find a material saftey sheet for any
species you select.
5. The only black I have seen used is walnut. I suppose is is tight
grained enough to be safe.
6. Do NOT put any stain of any kind, just not food safe.
7. Maybe you could just go with hard maple and make the board in the
shape of the Texas tech logo, or the state of Texas or router in some
design on the edge or back or something along those lines.
One big concern with varying wood types is the expansion and
contraction of different species can be eough to break the glue bond.
I've seen this more than once in table top slabs of varying woods. and
being washed and around heat of kitchen can make things worse.
I've made an sold a few hundred cutting boards and work sufaces in my
time and consider myself fairly well informed on the subject.
???? FDA says "(B) Hard maple or an equivalently hard, close-grained
may be used for:
(1) Cutting boards; cutting blocks; bakers' tables; and
UTENSILS such as rolling pins, doughnut dowels, salad
bowls, and chopsticks; and
(2) Wooden paddles used in confectionery operations for
pressure scraping kettles when manually preparing
confections at a temperature of 110oC (230oF) or above."
There are many woods that are "equivalently hard, close grained".
Bloodwood is about the same hardness as hard maple and is slightly
more dense. Ebony is very dense and somewhat harder. So both would
appear to qualify on "equivalently hard, close grained".
Such sheets generally refer to inhaled dust. not transfer from solid
planks to food, which will be minimal.
Stain may not be, but dyes can be if you are careful in your choice.
Bloodwood shrinks a little more radially and a little less
tangentially than ebony.
Thanks to everyone for the input. I've priced ebony, and my brother-in-law
is not worth a $500 cutting board. OK, I'm exaggerating, but not much.
I'm planning to use redheart and black walnut. That should be close enough
for Texas Tech work.
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